We just rang in the New Year and it seems everyone is publishing trends and predictions for 2016.   Quite honestly, my head is spinning after comparing about ten of these food & beverage trend lists!    Which ones make sense and which ones are too far out there?

a server pouring hot water into coffee mugsThere are many changes in consumer tastes and economic conditions that will shape the restaurant industry this coming year.  I’ve narrowed everything I read to a list of 20 trends (in no particular order) that I believe are right on target.  Here are my “best pick” predictions …

  • MORE SPICES, LESS SALT & SUGAR With turmeric taking the lead in the spice cabinet
  • CLEAN” FOOD All-natural ingredients free of GMOs, artificial flavors and colors
  • PULSES Chickpeas, lentils, dried beans and peas packed with plant protein
  • ROOT-TO-STEM Vegetables (and every part of them) are moving to the center of the plate
  • GLUTEN-FREE FLOURS Watch for constant emergence of new varieties
  • DESIGNER OATMEAL Rolled oats with just about anything you can imagine added — or completely reimagined as smoothies and beverages
  • SAVORY YOGURTS & ICE CREAMS Flavored with olive oils, herbs, spices and teas
  • KOJI Mold-injected rice bringing umami flavor to the menu in a unique way
  • FRIED CHICKEN The ultimate comfort food returns with all kinds of regional twists
  • SERIOUSLY FIERY FOODS Go ahead … try to make my tongue burn!
  • CHARRED, BURNT & CARAMELIZED Replacing the smoked foods craze
  • AFRICAN CUISINES Going far beyond better known Ethiopian
  • HOUSE-MADE SODAS & TONICS Healthier and fresher options to traditional soft drinks
  • THIRD-WAVE COFFEES Following the craft beer movement, coffee drinkers are demanding beans from small artisan roasters instead of the big guys
  • FOOD DELIVERY ON DEMAND Both fully-cooked meals and cook-at-home kits
  • POP-UP RESTAURANTS The trend expands bringing both emerging and guest chefs
  • CHEF-DRIVEN FAST-CASUAL RESTAURANTS Even higher quality food for this popular service format
  • GIANT FOOD HALLS People are packing these temples to worship all things food and drink
  • SUNDAY BRUNCH Lines are getting longer for the one meal a week that’s over the top!
  • NOT ENOUGH COOKS IN THE KITCHEN Labor shortages will likely cause menus to simplify